New Zealand to hold referendum on national flag

A man holds a New Zealand flag at a ceremony in Christchurch on 22 February 2012 Mr Key said that the current flag represented a "post-colonial era" that had passed

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New Zealand is to hold a referendum on whether to change the national flag, Prime Minister John Key has announced.

Mr Key, who on Monday called an election for 20 September, said the vote would be held within three years.

The current flag shows the Southern Cross constellation and includes the Union Jack - the UK's national flag - in one corner.

Mr Key said the flag represented a period of history from which New Zealand had moved on.

"It's my belief... that the design of the New Zealand flag symbolises a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed," he said in a speech at Victoria University.

"The flag remains dominated by the Union Jack in a way that we ourselves are no longer dominated by the United Kingdom."

"I am proposing that we take one more step in the evolution of modern New Zealand by acknowledging our independence through a new flag."

Mr Key said that he liked the silver fern - popularised by national teams including the All Blacks - as an option, saying efforts by New Zealand's athletes gave "the silver fern on a black background a distinctive and uniquely New Zealand identity".

But he said he was open to all ideas and that retaining the current flag was "a very possible outcome of this process".

'No need'

A group of cross-party lawmakers would oversee the vote process and a steering group would seek public submissions for new flag designs, he said.

An All Black supporter waves a flag during a New Zealand All Blacks IRB Rugby World Cup 2011 fan day on 18 September 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand Mr Key said his preference was for the silver fern, currently associated with national sports teams

Mr Key said there was no move to cut ties with the British monarchy.

"We retain a strong and important constitutional link to the monarchy and I get no sense of any groundswell of support to let that go," he said.

It is not clear to what extent there is support for changing the flag. One poll late last month showed only 28% of respondents wanted to change the flag, compared to 72% who were happy with the current version.

Representatives of service personnel have argued that troops have fought and died under the existing flag.

"The view of the RSA is there is no need to change the flag,'' Don McIver, national president of the Returned and Services Association (RSA), was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

The opposition Labour party has said it supports the process.

"We're not going to differ or divide from the government on this issue. It's a broad constitutional issue, if the country wants a debate about the flag so be it, but it's not the primary issue for this election," leader David Cunliffe said.

The polls have been scheduled so that a new government will be in place by the G20 meeting due to take place in Australia in mid-November.

Mr Key's National Party currently has a sizeable lead over the Labour opposition, polls show.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    15 Minutes ago

    A flag just a piece of cloth folks. How can anyone sensibly get exited about the pattern on it? Millions have died pointlessly over such trivia.


    Which just goes to show it is NOT just a piece of cloth, but a symbol and rallying point for every country, and many have died to preserve it, poor choice of words you use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    People have a tendency to pick the things that don't really matter.

    Why do politicians thing this stuff will get them votes? Blame the past for current problems, seems to a political staple the world over

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    I suspect this is more a political move rather than the will of New Zealanders to want a new flag. I believe that most New Zealanders are proud of what their flag represents and would see a lot of their proud history go should the present flag be retired.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    If New Zealand dumps her colonial standard, will Australia be far behind?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    It will be sad to see the NZ flag changed because of her links with the UK, however Mr Key is quite right to say that it was made in the Colonial era, and that our links are now fading away.

    Thank you New Zealand for being a staunch and faithful ally of the UK for so many years, Good Luck with your new flag, seems the end of an era.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    44 benbowlane
    Fully agree with you there. We've sold the Commonwealth out for some poxy European Superstate with Germany and France as the main puppet masters. We allow in millions of poor foreigners with complete disregard yet expect our Commonwealth brothers and sisters to jump through ever higher hoops to gain entry. We've betrayed out past, and all for some cheap labour from Eastern Europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Given the UK trend towards more and more devolution and the desire for historic boarder based independence we probably won’t have a Union flag in three years time anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    25. Gary Jessop

    Changing the flag of a commonwealth country is only one step in a long process of alienation from the UK. As is happening in Canada, New Zealand will be calling the Queen foreign next. I read somewhere, for example, that the Maori king refused to meet Wills.

    the Maori King is only the king of one of the tribes and does not represent all Maoris nor all New Zealanders

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    National flags are interesting;

    Philosophically, flags are critical to the state, who uses it to replace the identity of the individual with the identity of the state (the collective, under the direction of a lucky few, or one). And, under that flag, the common individual will tolerate things that as individuals one would decry normally. Flags, symbols nationalism, are essential to the state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    37.Peter Buck

    The Union Flag was officially allowed by parliament to be called the Union Jack in 1908. As you probably know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    A flag just a piece of cloth folks. How can anyone sensibly get exited about the pattern on it? Millions have died pointlessly over such trivia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    If the people want to change the flag fine, if the politicians want it the voters should think very carefully before agreeing as they will have their own agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Canada changed the flag because she was seen not being impartial during the Suez crisis by the Egyptians because of the Union flag in the quarter.This was prompted by the then foreign affairs minister Lester Pearson to promise Canadians a new flag when he became Prime Minister.
    The present flag is popular in most areas of the country Québec and Newfoundland excepted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    We may beat them to it if Scotland leaves the union then what happens do we keep it or change it. As for their flag that's up to them although as mentioned alot of people have died defending what it stands for. Plus of course its a well known flag so losing it is likely to cost money and any new flag just wont have the same creditability not at least for a long while.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    My position has been and continues to be: who gives a rats about New Zealand and Australia for that matter.

    If I want to hear about them I'll have to ask you to include Fiji, Madagascar , Canaries and a host of other sparsely populated islands in far places.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    John Keys has said this will be put to a vote if he wins the forthcoming election. Polls, however, show that most New Zealanders are against the change. Why change our flag we may be recognised by the silver fern but that is just part of what we identify with and the New Zealand flag with its Union flag in the corner and its 4 stars representing the Southern Cross IS the New Zealand flag we know

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Long overdue.Britain crapped on Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries when we deserted them for Europe.They fed us cheaply and fought our wars bravely and we repaid them by joining a continent we have nothing in common with. After leaving the Royal Navy 40 years ago I was offered a place in the Austarlian Navy. Stupidly I let my wife rule my head. Regretted it ever since

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Entirely New Zealand's business of course but with so few people there thinking a change is needed one can't help wonder: what are the politicians trying to use this to distract them from?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    27. Annapolis George

    Fiji, Bermuda, Australia, Tuvalu spring to mind, oh and for those who say we will have to change our flag if the Scots leave, absolutely rubbish, Hawaii still sports the Union Flag on it's own flag and they left ages ago.


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